Diane Begg of Ashburton, New Zealand was diagnosed with stage 3C high-grade serous ovarian cancer in November 2021 at the age of 53.
While working in a busy veterinary clinic, she experienced intermittent lower back pain and fatigue, but attributed both of those symptoms to something else.
“The first real sign something wasn’t right was having excruciating pain under my ribs and down the ribs on one side and really struggling to breathe, resulting in a collapse at work and a hospital admission,” she said. “An ECG showed I wasn’t having a heart attack so a chest CT was taken and showed several blood clots in both lungs.”
An abdominal CT scan found a 17-centimetre mass originating from her ovaries.
“My hospital admission and diagnosis came just as Omicron had taken hold in New Zealand and there was a no visitors policy put on hospitals,” she said. “I struggled with being alone with the diagnosis after that until I was discharged on day four as it wasn’t the news I wanted to tell my husband and family over the phone.”
After three treatments of chemotherapy, a scan showed that the tumour had shrunk from 17 centimetres to 11 centimetres. Following a complete hysterectomy and debulking surgery with the removal of her omentum and a mass from the pouch of Douglas, all visible signs of cancer were gone. Post surgery Diane underwent a further 3 rounds of chemotherapy and is waiting to learn whether she will start a maintenance treatment.
However, she has not yet been well enough to return to work.
“Recovery from treatment and surgery hasn’t been as instant as I thought it would be, but I am listening to my body and just going with what I can do each day,” she said.
She is hopeful that additional education and funding for ovarian cancer research will help women be diagnosed at an earlier stage.
“Ovarian cancer has symptoms that often are masked as other more common things and are overlooked by medical people and the unwell person, so diagnosis often comes after the disease is well advanced and too late to be cured,” she said.